(Photo: Alan Sullivan)
Before the puck dropped for the Boston Bruins’ St. Patrick’s Day game against the Buffalo Sabres, there had already been sound bytes in regard to not underestimating the Sabres. Though the team is at the bottom of the league in points, the Sabres are a team that shows resurgence no matter how many goals they are down. They gave the Washington Capitals a run for their money on Monday evening.
“We have a good team chemistry. Everyone wants to compete, battle hard everyday,” Sabres Rasmus Ristolainen said after the game. “We have a lot of young guys here, so everyone wants to show that they earned a spot in this league.”
Perhaps that is the missing piece to the Bruins puzzle. Could it be that too many of them no longer feel—despite what they may say in interviews—that need to prove they earned their spot?
While waiting for the Bruins players to become available for interviews post game, you could definitely sense that they were angry. Equipment bags were filled with a little more force and the slap of goalie pads hitting the floor was a little louder. Having watched the dominant play of the first 40 minutes, only to see the team not able to take the two points, there is a little satisfaction that they were angry. Emotion in hockey is good, especially for the Boston Bruins.
“Obviously it’s a disappointing result for sure. Right now we’re about getting results and getting the two points,” said Patrice Bergeron. “We know what’s going on in the standings. It’s a game tonight that we knew we needed to get and we didn’t so it is frustrating.”
There was a time when the Bruins would have checked hard and made the other team physically aware of their presence. There was a time when they would grind down the other team. They did less talking and showed their resolve on the ice in deeds.
“Yeah, we’ve told ourselves that we needed to find a way to get that second goal or even the third one,” Bergeron continued. “We needed to, kind of, find a way to give ourselves a cushion and we didn’t do that and it’s pretty easy, when you don’t have that killer instinct, for other teams to get back.”
Perhaps the Sabres’ head coach, Ted Nolan, was right when he intimated that all the time the Bruins spent with the puck in his team’s offensive zone eventually wore them out.
“It was almost like the ‘Thrilla in Manila;’ we just rope-a-doped them,” he said. “I think they got tired of going in our offensive zone for the whole period, but they almost seemed like they were in there for 19 minutes and [Anders] Lindback played great.”
Perhaps that vast amount of time in the offensive zone did lull the Bruins into a sense that all they needed to do was retain control of the puck and they could get out of the game with the two points. Though it wasn’t as if they weren’t shooting the puck on net. Of 95 shots by the Bruins, 45 of them made it to the Sabres’ net but only one got past their goaltender. However, most of the shots were not in what is often referred to as those greasy, grimy areas. And that was likely the only way they were going to get another one past Lindback.
Lindback was not Nolan’s first choice for the game against the Bruins, as he admitted that he intended to start Matt Hackett. However goaltending coach Arturs Irbe suggested playing Lindback again, though he had played the night before against the Capitals. Clearly he knew that Lindback was feeling it between the pipes.
Unfortunately for the Bruins, they took a single point out of what should have been an easy two. And perhaps worse, the team that is breathing down their neck now in the playoffs race is the team they see Thursday, on the road—the Ottawa Senators. And this team also has a hot goalie—Andrew Hammond. Some know him better as the “Hamburglar” for his helmet and the way he’s been stealing pucks and keeping them out of the Senators net.
The Bruins practiced Wednesday at their facility in Wilmington—Ristuccia Arena—before traveling to Ottawa. Hopefully they have embraced that anger they were feeling Tuesday night and are channeling it so that they take a killer instinct onto the ice Thursday night to take two points.